Where are you holding your classes? Maximizing accessibility

CMSC recently received this inspiring note from an MSC participant and we asked her to slightly re-word her letter to address our teacher community at large. As we continue to address issues of inclusion, equity and diversity, we are constantly on the lookout for potential obstacles to people making it into our programs. For some, the issue of physical accessibility is a daily lived experience, but for many of us it may not be something we think of often. As MSC teachers, we must intentionally mitigate barriers to participation in any way possible. Read this note from an MSC participant about her experience of inaccessibility in a recent MSC class and consider specifically how YOU can broaden accessibility in your classes.

Dear leaders of the CMSC community,

I want to thank you for the transformative experience of the MSC class. Thank you for bringing your authentic presence and your compassion for us as participants as we deepen into our own compassion for ourselves. I took the course twice—once as an intensive, and the other as an 8-week, and it has been so meaningful for me.

I loved the class. There is only one piece of feedback I want to offer that comes from deep within my heart in the spirit of love. It is critical, but as with most things, please know that it is not personal and I speak my truth out of care.

It hurts that the location in which I took course is not accessible. It was in a second-floor, no elevator location where a large number of Disabled folks are excluded. Anger and disappointment came alive inside me. In fact, through the first couple sessions of the class my body was filled with these emotions and it was something I had to work with before I could retain any new information.

I felt disloyal to my community of beloved Disabled friends and colleagues, by attending this class, which was only accessible to me because I hold a privileged identity (while I identify as Disabled, I was not disabled by this particular physical environment).

I continually thought of my best friend, a chair-user with whom I processed much of what came up during this class. (Please see their recent Twitter post attached–they recently wanted to take the MSC course after I’ve been telling them about my rich experience. That they are in across the country in California and face the same as here in DC, points to the systemic nature of this exclusion.)

Allie’s original post:

For a spiritual community that is focused on wisdom and justice, it is deeply disappointing that a choice (implicit or explicit) would be made to exclude an oppressed group.

It’s like hanging up a shingle and saying, “Actually, we were not thinking of you, and this community is not for you, and you are not welcome here.”

I say it in this way not to make individuals feel called out in a hurtful way; I imagine that this exclusion is certainly not intentional. Yet, the reality of folks who have been unable to attend the in-person MSC course, and the larger act of welcoming some and excluding others, painfully remains.

I hope all MSC teachers will consider offering the class in accessible locations if not already doing so, and communicating to their home communities about this. While I’m thrilled that the CMSC offers online courses, it matters that the live courses are accessible—those of us who have attended know the value of face-to-face sangha. I am happy to volunteer to help with finding affordable, accessible locations.

I would also like to acknowledge that deepening accessibility is an ongoing, living devotion—a learning process in which I, like others, am continually humbled in and growing in.

Feel free to forward this email to whomever you like.

Again, after sharing this, please let me reiterate my deep gratitude for the class. You have made a big, positive difference in my life.



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